Q&A with Michael E. Newton discussion


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message 1: by Steve (new)

Steve | 4 comments Hi Michael,

When do you say Rome fell?

On topic to your book, when did Rome become a tyranny, with which head of Rome? I think this is a tough question because there were tyrants before Rome became a tyranny.

One would think your position is, Tyranny leads to a fall of a civilization; therefore, the last phase of the Roman Empire would have been marked by tyranny.


message 2: by Michael (new)

Michael Newton | 11 comments Mod
When did Rome become a tyranny? When did Rome fall?

Great questions and hard to answer (but I will try any way). But first, the point of my book is that these are processes. Freedom ebbs and flow, tyranny creeps in, civilizations decline (as Gibbon's and Montesquieu's book titles both mention).

First, the Roman Republic "fell" when Julius Caesar took over. Whether it became an empire under Julius Caesar or later under Octavian/August is a matter of debate and largely semantic.

Tyranny can either be defined as absolute power or as an evil ruler. Originally, it has the first definition, but it changed into the second. Using the second definition, which is what they used in Roman times (the first was used in early Greece), the Roman Empire could be a tyranny under one ruler, not be a tyranny under the next, and switch back and forth. In fact, the Empire under Augustus and for the first 9 years of Tiberius were pretty good, but then Tiberius changed after the murder of his son. We then had a number of mostly evil and/or incompetent rulers until the Five Good Emperors.

So there really is no single time of when Rome became a tyranny. It was a tyranny at some times, but not others.

As for when Rome fell, it "fell" with the three Sacks of Rome, as everybody knows, in 410, 455, and 546 by the Visigoths, Vandals, and Ostrogoths. But again, this is only trying to pinpoint a final event. Rome had been in decline for many years. Most would argue, as I would, that the decline began in 180 AD when Marcus Aurelius died and his son Commodus succeeded him. Commodus was one of the worst Emperors of Rome. (I think he was the worst, other say Nero or Caligula.) So then, Rome was in decline for more than 200 years before it was sacked. Rome's population had declined from about a million at its peak to about 100,000 when it was sacked. When Rome fell, it was of little importance as the city, the empire had already destroyed itself. How Rome destroyed itself is a different topic, which I discuss in my book, as do many others (Gibbon, Montesquieu), though we do not all agree.

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